Thursday, February 12, 2009

Abuse at Shows


Horse of Course said- But I wonder - where are the authorities? I mean sports organisations, judges, etc. You mentioned in an earlier post that in one competition several of the horses leaving the arena were lame. Why were the riders not disqualified? When money is involved, some people will always be tempted to take shortcuts. I also understand that it is not easy to stand up for your principles as a single person when the result is that you won’t have money to pay your hay, or bread.But should not the organisations and the judges take the responsibility to defend the horse’s interest and make sure that measures were taken to keep abuse out of the sport?I would think that you have given this quite a lot of thoughts, Janet. How come it is like this? What can be done? What is done?

The story has been going on forever. There are basically two camps. The camp that breeds, shows, races and the camp that loves their horse and feels they are a pet and companion.

The breeding, showing, racing camp believes that horses are livestock and are for our personal use. This does not mean all these people are cruel. It means they use horses for personal gain and satisfaction.

Of course there are rules. There are watchdog groups. But the infra-structure supports the big win, the fastest horse, the fanciest breed. So there are abuses.

When the shows are run by people who compete, you're going to see abuse. Lame horses are allowed to go. Horses with scarred mouths, sides and minds are national champions. Tails are doctored, horses are tied in their stalls with their heads suspended, it goes on and on.

I had the hope I could become a top competitor without falling into these behaviors. I couldn't do it. So I quit. I still try. I still won't succeed.

There are small inroads. Judges often ask for horses to trot in before they start their patterns. This shows lameness better than when we walk in.

I see more horses moving in a more natural frame. I hear trainers talk about resting their horses, skipping futurities and starting with the derbies, that sort of thing.

The reality is, things will change when horses who have been raised and trained under humane conditions become national champions. Not one second before.

75 comments:

Vaquerogirl said...

I won't fall victim to those kinds of abuses either- and I know that I won't be a top competitor because of it. I don't care. I focus on having a good ride on the horse that I train by myself. For me it is the destination and the company of like minded friends. I know that my piddly little opinion won't amount to a hill of beans in the horse world, but I try by educating the up-coming horsemen and women of my world.

mugwump said...

Vaquerogirl- Wouldn't it be cool to have shows which only allow horses trained under specified humane conditions.....

BMGallop said...

I love this. Mugwump, you rock. Sometimes I only view my pony as a pet and he gets spoiled rotten, but I love showing, so I try to do it as often as possible. There are two shows I want to do this summer but they are a week apart and involve a few hours of driving to get to each of them. I decided one is enough. I won't put my pony through the stress of trailering and showing for that long two weekends in a row.

I have a training question. My pony does dressage. Just lower level stuff. I don't think he's an FEI prospect or anything, but I've always wanted to try reining. I don't have the ambition to be the best of the best or anything like that, but I would like to be proficient and train correctly. Would it be possible to do dressage and reining with the same horse or will it mess with his brain?

jalin33 said...

I love horses, for 40 years they have been and likely will continue to be my life; but you couldn't pay me to compete any more, not because of winning or losing, but because I just can't watch it all, not one more single minute. To say that I am burnt out would be a gross understatement. I see some positive changes in some of the smaller/medium facilities, lots of them are only going to open un-rated shows and trying to teach the right attitude, maybe in the future these kids coming up in better environments will change things with the big boys. We can only hope.

mugwump said...

BMGallop- I know the lower levels do fine in both directions. There comes a point when it won't work, but I have heard success stories of retired reiners becoming dressage horses.

autumnblaze said...

Here, here! When people see it can be done in a kinder way, with a more sane horse it will happen more often. However, if shortcuts get the money faster and are never penalized, why would those people stop?

I'm more in the horses are pets camp, I guess. However, they get ridden for my enjoyment to justify their breakfast in my opinion. The most competing I would ever like to do is competitive trail or endurance. Then you're racing a clock and get rewarded for the healthiest (most fit etc.) horse! I like that.

Most any true showing would just defeat me after losing to people who would do anythig to win. I've stood there looking at great competitors getting their hocks, SI,(insert joint here) injected for the umpteenth time, or live on robaxin etc. because time off is just not going to happen and they have to make it to the shows for the next 3 weekends etc.. Holding the leadrope for a vet who does a lot of performance medicine, looking into those tired, big brown eyes for years. Nope. I want to learn how to do so much when it comes to riding but don't have a desire to show it off. Ever. Maybe that seems weird but like Vaquerogirl I like the horses and the like minded people I meet in horses.

Bedazzled said...

I grew up showing QH's, stopped riding at 21, then at 45 (10 yrs. ago) started riding again, English this time. I was burned out at 21, and I have no interest in showing. I foxhunt, trail ride, and do some clinics.

My nieces show AQHA, usually with big name trainers. My then 12 yo niece and I were discussing my NH training and her trainer's methods. I couldn't belive some of the things she told me. Horrified doesn't even come close. When I asked her why, she nailed it. She said, "They don't have time to do it right. They have a show they're getting ready for."

I think that says it all.

autumnblaze said...

Bedazzled - I've met too many kids like that! I got into horses by working for vets and it always made me ill how many shortcuts they took just to get to the show. It was always more sickening when it was a kid asking for drugs or injections or I'd see them the ring with crazy tight draw reins and a wicked nasty bit. Some grown up had taught them that to be that way, and winning was the only option. Learnig how to do it right had nothing to do with it. Boggles my mind.

wanttoknow said...

Everyone talks about the abuse that some trainers commit just to make money in shows. But surely not the big name top level world class reining barns!
Are you saying that you feel that most or all of the national level big money futurities are won by horses who have been abused?? If so how?
What would you personally had to do to a horse to make it big that you decided you couldn't do for moral and ethical reasons -- and are such practices really widespread common practice? Please clarify!

Anonymous said...

wanttoknow - I can't speak for Janet, but she has been pretty clear on that one "absue" is riding horses before they are physically and mentally ready. Futurities for 2 year old require riding yearlings.

mugwump said...

wanttoknow-I personally don't want to ride a horse so young and so hard it's hocks are injected at three. I personally don't want to drill holes with my spurs into my horse in order to lift it's back high enough to compensate for it's head pulled between it's knees with draw reins. I personally don't want to keep my horse on continual ulcer preventative medication.
I choose to no longer have my horses live in box stalls under lights.
I will not name names or attack individuals.
I am not starting a forum bashing trainers. I have made my thoughts clear for my entire blog.
I have never stated the only reason I didn't make it to the big time was because I wouldn't treat my horses in a way I felt was unfair. I have stated it was part of it.
You will not get me into any kind of finger pointing, name bashing, one vs. the other kind of discussion.
Read my blog if you want to know my thoughts. If you want to join in, fine. If you want to get in a fight go somewhere else.

mugwump said...

p.s. thanks anonymous

wanttoknow said...

mugwump --WOW I obviously hit a nerve! In your response you answered my questions about WHAT type of abuse you feel is typically done to winning reining horses. That is all I was asking for. I am not sure why you decided to think that I was asking for a fight!
I have no interest in names of specific trainers or anything -- never said so and never asked.
Gee!

mugwump said...

I think what hits a nerve is the thought that because a big name is attached it guarantees fair treatment to the horses.
Abuse is not limited to BYB's and hoarders.

kel said...

Mugs said..
I had the hope I could become a top competitor without falling into these behaviors. I couldn't do it. So I quit. I still try. I still won't succeed.

I don't know how I feel about that statement. As a parent I always told my children that if they did things the right way, no short cuts, were kind and stayed true to themselves that the rewards would be great. They showed livestock for years and they had a reputation for being honest and fair, helpful to others and good handlers. They didn't win right off the bat, but their time came and they were rewarded with big wins, respect, opportunities, and money for doing things the right way. The same old cheaters were out there, and in their own minds they were still wildly successful. But were they really? I guess it depends on what measuring stick you are using to measure success.

mugwump said...

Kel-You have to understand. These people are not cheating. They are successful professionals. They show within the accepted tenets of the industry.
There are written rules and accepted ways to stretch them. Surely you aren't surprised by this.

wanttoknow said...

Well the way I feel is that horses and trainers that are really good can get to the top without any abuse or shortcuts -- or at least they SHOULD be able to. Unless the system is so broken that this is no longer true.....
Its like people in the olympics -- some do win unfairly pumped up on steroids or other drugs - but hopefully there is still lots of room for winners who are "natural"

Justaplainsam said...

Well Mugwump, you know how I feel about this subject!

Before I start dont bash me because I do try to show on this level. Im trying to find the mix of what will keep me and my horses happy, while still managing to place in the ring.

I was absolutly disgused with the industry (and myself, for wanting to reach that level) when I came home from Congress. When AQHA put out its "new pleasure" videos in 2003 ish, I was just getting into the game after walking away from jumpers. (who have things in the closet a WP trainer wouldnt even touch!!!) I loved the look, and what I imagined the feel would be like, with these pleasure horses.

I also got into halter horses. Which fortunitly I have never seen abused (other than a jerk of an ass. trainer that jerked them around!)

I still do the halter horses in a regional way (ended up 2nd in the nation this year!) But the horses go out, get to be horses, and seem to love going to shows. However I show Appaloosa's, and I am the only "halter trainer" within 400km.

Im debating about dipping my foot back into the AQHA WP ring, I have the horse, my mentor/coach says I can do it... But Im wondering if I want to? In the past month I've ridden 3 horses with well over 100pts each in WP, and what I belive is a true lope (3 beats) is about 2 speeds faster than I should be going. The last horse was loping behind a horse that was walking...

If it feels that wrong...how can it be good?

Im fairly certin that I will never show at the world level (unless the horse has spots) But Im not sure if I want to keep doing my thing and having the judges pass me by because I dont fit the norm. And I really miss showing WP, and owners dont come to you if your not winning.

And about injecting a horses hock... Aparently I now have to get myself injected! I knew it was comming because of the RA but the riding has made it worse.

Justaplainsam said...

Oh I forgot. We have a trainer that shows up at shows and lunges her horses and her students horses in twisted wire bits with the reins run though the horses legs and tied to the saddle.

(each time the horse brings its leg back it bumps its rein, and jerks its mouth)

The president of the club (nationaly) told us to take pics that were date stamped and it would be "handled".

Who knows if its going to work, or we'll have spy's watching our every move as revenge....

Anonymous said...

I don't know much and really don't know much about the western world but I did have an epiphany last year around the Olympics.

I think there is a dressage rider who is the worst example of training with roll kur who won I think silver at the Olympics.

If to get to the pinnacle of the sport is do to this type of training to an animal then what does that say. Dressage is supposed to be harmony between horse and rider. Roll kur is not, it's a short cut as a previous poster said.

When I had this epiphany, I stared at my Dressage Today and realized that I wasn't interested anymore... As a rider, you always dream that maybe you can be a somebody but if being that somebody means doing things that are abusive then maybe being a nobody is a better somebody.

Anonymous said...

The implication by some people is that if you show and win at top levels (or even aspire to) you MUST be abusing your horse (either overtly or secretly) How absurd!
There are nasty people in all sports but the good talented ones outnumber. The horror of the behavior of the abusers capture our attention, but are not the norm.

kel said...

I guess I shouldn't have used the word "cheating". And no, I am not surprised by that type of behavior. We saw that in the livestock industry. But just because it isn't a written law or rule doesn't make it right and moral. That is why you quit right? You couldn't do things that you knew in your heart are wrong. What I don't want to believe or maybe what I am just naive about is that you have to compromise your standards to succeed. Got those rose colored glasses on. :)

jalin33 said...

Anonymous said...
The implication by some people is that if you show and win at top levels (or even aspire to) you MUST be abusing your horse (either overtly or secretly) How absurd!
There are nasty people in all sports but the good talented ones outnumber. The horror of the behavior of the abusers capture our attention, but are not the norm.
Sorry Anon;
It is NOT absurd. I did Animal Cruelty for 10 years, I specialized in large animals. The higher you get up the food chain the more common "training accidents" and chronically lame 3 YO's are. I have been in the horse business for over 40 years, the worst training atrocities that I have witnessed have been with the big barns, not the small ones...the more money involved the more likely you will see bad things. It is what it is.

Blair said...

Thank you for all your advice!

I think I will have to start carrying my dressage whip again, at least for lateral movements. And why I never thought to work strictly on turns on the forehand... it's why I read your blog mugs.

I had a lesson today, and guess what- no bucking! On either lead! I'm so unbelievably ecstatic!

I believe the majority of my problem is that my right leg is so much weaker than my left that when I cued the left-lead canter, I was still sitting to the inside. It pissed her off, so she'd buck.

I also discovered that I constantly fiddle with my reins, and when that was pointed out to me and I stopped, we had much better movements all together.

Blair said...

Oh, brain-blip. That was technically for the last post and completely off-topic. Sorry

mugwump said...

Blair-that's completely OK! This post is a can of worms I'm wishing I hadn't dived into.
I don't want to get on a soap box. I have my thoughts and opinions, but am really trying to share them through example, not accusation....
Must be the hot flashes getting to me.
Horse of Course, see the trouble you got me in? Let's go back to talking about rides in the moonlight with moose....

Anonymous said...

Mugs - if you were suddenly put in charge of the reining world, what changes would you make to the rules to promote the victory of horses "who have been raised and trained under humane conditions"? I'm curious. :-)

Anonymous - I don't think Mugs is talking about abuse in the sense of beating horses, or other shocking and obviously cruel and unnecessary behavior. She's talking about some of the accepted practices that are necessary to win - she's not comfortable with them, and for some very vaild reasons, it sounds like.

I'm not a horse person (though I'm fascinated by the horse world), but even I know that getting to world-class levels in any sport requires major sacrifices and pain. Putting humans through that can be ethically questionable. Putting animals through that is REALLY ethically questionable. To keep animal-oriented sports healthy, it needs to be discussed, debated, and argued, by people inside and outside the sport. Frequently. And sometimes loudly. Very loudly.

kel said...

mugs... you know what works for hot flashes? Cold Margaritas.

;)

Blogger needs some of those obnoxious little emoicons.

Laura Crum said...

I rode for some prominent reining and cutting trainers, and I have to say that Janet is right on. The sort of abuse she describes is much more common than not in the big name barns. Its not considered abuse by these folks. Its considered "normal traing practices". I, too, considered it abusive and I quit. In my opinion, the reined cowhorse folks were, in general, a lot harder on the horses than the cutting horse folks. That's a generalization, but I did ride for both sorts of trainer. If you think about it, the nature of these two events dictates this diffrence. But you will find much abuse in all horse sports at the highest levels. And again, this will depend on your definition of abuse. My horses are my pets now, but they remain riding horses and I certainly expect and demand correct behavior out of them. I won't compete any more, though. I feel the competition leads to the abuse. And like someone said, I can't stand to watch it any more, even if I'm not treating my own horses that way. Its almost as if I'm condoning it by being there and participating.

jalin33 said...

Janet, I don't think you have been on a soap box at all and I think your answers put things as honestly as possible without accusing or pointing fingers at anyone. I think it is important for people to talk about this or else we are all just accepting it. During my hot flashes I probably am not so nice. Like Laura said, this stuff is considered normal training procedures. In my opinion that is exactly what makes it so bad, that it is considered "normal". Some of the stuff I have seen should never be considered normal by any reasonable adult, but it is. That is why I won't watch or participate anymore, you are correct Laura, I don't wish to condone it. Sadly there is not a discipline untouched by this "normal" training problem either. It is truly a pity. I am heading out to have a beer with my horse. I tell her all the time she has no clue what I saved her from......

NYCowgirl said...

Thank you for this post, Mugs!
I show HUS, Equitation, and Showmanship on the Pinto and Paint circuits. I will never, ever have a competitive WP horse...I refuse to make them "lope" counter-bent and crippled. Unfortunately, I see a lot of HUS horses traveling improperly on the rail, now, too. Breed associations can call for "forward, natural motion" all they want to, but, until the judges stop pinning the unnatural, crippled-looking movers, nothing will change.

jme said...

love this post :-) so true. i also used to show a lot, and vowed to myself that i wouldn't become like them - that my horses' welfare and wellbeing always came first.

i'm disgusted by the equitation kid with her spur stuck in a permanent bloody hole in her horse's side as the judges look the other way... after all, she rides with a big name trainer; or so-and-so's horse is lame again, but still wins his classes, or the one who spent the night with his head tied to his tail, or the one with the triangle bit and notches cut into it, or the one with his nose pulled in behind the vertical... i could go on and on... part of it is the corruption, and part of it is just blatantly uneducated judges and officials!

when i found myself being tempted into that world of putting ribbons above horses, i left the showing world. now, if and when i go back, it will be on my terms and for my own reasons. and maybe we won't win the big prizes, but slowly, if we all show them the merits of the alternative, maybe it will catch on... i hope so anyway.

jalin33 said...

Well, Pig had her bedtime snack and I had my beer and I got to thinking about the fall-out from this problem. What happens when you have friends even a close friend who fall under a big name trainers seduction and start accepting these "normal" training practices...do you speak up? do you end the friendship? do you keep quiet and feel badly? It is an unfortunate by-product and very sad. Too bad there wasn't a way to have shows which only admit horses trained under specific humane conditions...and you know what? Perhaps if everyone keeps talking about it, speaking up and not accepting it, some day that could happen.....

mugwump said...

OK guys, I'm home, a margarita and a half in (thanks Kel) and I'm diving in.
I've added a photo.
This is Leeland (name’s not my fault, blame my kid. This photo was taken last weekend.
He is the colt I have talked about with the kind, quiet temperament. The one I plan on being my old lady horse. He is foundation bred, but also out of two AQHA, NRCHA champions. He has earned his place in the world.
He was legally two in January. He won't really be two until the end of June.
In the pro cowhorse world he is now 6 weeks behind in his training. Actually further than that, because he is not saddle broke yet. He hasn't been bitted. So he is 8 weeks behind.
In my former world (pro) by now he would be confident in his WTC. He would stop, roll back and come off my leg enough for me to know how he was going to spin.
He would understand that if he doesn't try for me I will hurt him. He would know I'm the boss.
He would lope circles, ten or fifteen at a time both ways.
He would stand saddled and tied for at least 6 hours a day. If I was busy, it could be 10 or so.
I did not work for a man who was considered abusive. I did work for a man who is one of the better cowhorse trainers in the country.
Not just good, one of the best. This was industry standard.
Does he look old enough to be doing all this to you? Not to me.
Every year I watched an average of twenty head fail before one would make it to my boss’s standards. Think about that for a minute.
Out of the ten or so who made it to the show pen maybe two would work their way to the top.
Every horse who made it to the futurity was injected in the hocks before he performed. Every horse had its tail doctored. Every one was scarred, on the sides of its mouth, along its ribs and in it's mind.
These were the good ones.
The one's that didn't make it?
Bowed tendons were the norm. Blown hocks. Shattered hooves. Bizarre behaviors, biting themselves, rearing over backwards, eating their way out of their stall. Ulcers. No big thing, they all have them.
Don't think it was just the trainer I worked for. It was everyone I met in the top of the pack, from trainers, to owners to non-pros.
At the AQHA world show I saw one of the top 5 trainers in the country for reining and cowhorse beat a stud with a logging chain until he came to his knees. The horse was double blanketed so it didn't leave marks.
Not only was it not reported, there was joking about it among the elites. It seems this was a unique way to quiet a hot horse.
The horse top tenned.
Did I say anything? No. I was freaked and intimidated. I vowed I would learn to train without abuse. I didn't make it. If you ask one of the good old boys I rode with why, they'll say, "She couldn't step up, she was too soft." It's true.
So tell me. Do you think I should be loping the colt in the photo?

Brenda said...

and not to speak about all the politics in the show world. You can have a great go, and if you aren't with so and so trainer, the judge won't look your way. That is what disgusts me, and why I have no desire to go back. To ride that is, I'm sure my new granddaughter will show in 10-15 years! My daughter had great showmanship, horsemanship and equitation patterns in AQHA shows, qualifying for youth world. She wouldn't place high in the qualifying class and would come back and win her class. I even had parents of the kids who did well in the qualifying class tell me the class results were wrong. so it's not always movement, or lack of, that helps a horse/person to win. But I do have a desire to go into a different direction, take my time and train quiet and well trained horses. The desire will always be there. Sometimes we just need to find a way to keep the excitement.
I need a glass of wine!

Brenda said...

oh, but I did teach my kids to ride quiet. lope their speed horse down, lope the reiner down. Ride quiet, no matter how tense the horse was until the horse relaxes. It helped that my boys didn't get hyper when their horses were hyper, they just loped their horses, then walked beside their friends and talked. SOmetimes there were 6 or 8 horses walking around the arena, side by side, as the kids chatted. I should have appreciated those times more. My daughter stayed in competition mode most of the time at shows. She had pattern horses, so she had to stay on top of that pattern. Now I wished the boys would have come first, and we had shown speed horses first. Maybe that tense pattern horse would have been loped down more! But I wouldn't have taken these show years away from my kids!

jalin33 said...

I don't know where the photo is but I can't see it, doesn't matter, the answer is a resounding NO! Pig's leg which took me SEVEN years to heal was the result of one of those trainers practices. I have seen all of that, I know a trainer who broke a horses neck at an AQHA show IN FRONT OF People including the youth that owned it and STILL has a following. You know Janet, seeing those things is a lot to carry around for the rest of your life and it doesn't get easier with time. At least for me it doesn't. Sometimes when I am hanging with Pig random things I have seen come back to me and make me feel nauseated. Some nights when I can't sleep and I see in my mind the results of "training accidents" I have to get up because it is just too painful to lay there. My memories go back too many years, remember I told you about my first big name trainer with that wonderful cutting horse? The last time I went there because I would never go back, I found that beautiful top ten stallion with his face caved in and it would be permanently scarred from being bashed repeatedly with a 2 by 4, I was only about twelve at the time. He was one of the reason's I went into animal cruelty...I feel like I failed miserably at that job even though I was considered to be successful and I carry a lot of baggage from my time doing it that I will likely never be able to let go, bet you do too. Too Soft? No you weren't too soft, reading the things you have written I can say with reasonable certainty that you can ride just about any horse and get it to perform for you and you can do it without anything besides reasonable discipline and consistency. I wish you were the norm and it is my fervent wish that you touch enough people with your blog to cause some changes, even if they are only quiet, small ones...and Cathy too.

jalin33 said...

OMG! If it is that adorable grey guy...he is my favorite color and type! NO NO NO NO! Let his cute little butt grow up.......

jalin33 said...

Another thing...my horse has a bright eye, she is alert, she is full of beans today she was latched on to a piece of insulation blowing through her paddock like it was a calf in the wrong place at the wrong time...when she was done she jumped in the air and shook her head delighted she kept that thing in line, the wind was blowing like heck..... Look at the pic's of Janet's horses, they are alert and bright....Have you ever noticed the pic's of the winning horses? They have vacant, resigned, soulless shark eyes...the eyes human survivors of atrocities have....walk through a big trainers barn...see how many horses even pick up there head to look at you, much less knicker, or look for a scratch....It will haunt you if you have even a remote knowledge of what a horse is supposed to act like....

jalin33 said...

Well, fortunately for all of you who cringe at my long-winded posts...it is bedtime in my corner of the world...Pig has her bedtime snack and I made sure her water is warm since it will get cold tonight....Have a good night everyone and Janet...whether it matters coming from me or not; you should have no regrets, you are right, THEY are wrong! Cheers! BTW...I like that name...it is cute and different.

onetoomany said...

I must admit I am on the fence about this issue.

On one hand I do know people who make it to top and do very well without unsavory training methods. On the other, I was friends with a big time AQHA rider whose horse, at 5 years old was lame in its hocks and needing injections. The girl, to my horror, said "Well, we figured we should sell him now so we can still make a profit on him." While I understand the need to make a profit on a horse, I disagreed as it seemed like she was using this horse (the horse got her Reserve HUS at Congress in her age division) and throwing him away. I also know a girl who took a horse not mentally or physically suited for pleasure and forced her mare into it. The mare is a neurotic mess now and this girl has only started to show on the regional circuit. These examples are in no way the worst the pleasure world has to offer but you get my drift.

I do think it is really getting to be a mix bag now. As I said I have seen some great trainers that go very far, but have seen the messes still being created. I agree with Mugwump in that nothing is going to change until the humanely started and trained horses begin to be national champs. I also think a large contributor to the inhumane training is profit. The sooner trainers get those horses out there, the sooner they start winning money off those horses. It just doesn't pay in the short term to let a horse mature and grow. Hence the babies that are getting frequent hock injections. I do, however, think that things are slowly changing and that more and more trainers are beginning wait and take things slower. Hopefully this will become the trend in the upper echlelons of training.

BMGallop said...

Mugwump, thanks for answering my question! I think I'll take some reining...or generally western lessons this summer. :)

slippin said...

I have seen some of the abuse that goes on at the shows and like you Mugwump, I didn't report them because I was intimidated. I showed my mare in some of the big shows and I KNOW she wasn't abused, and yet I still WON. I even had great offers from the big trainers for her, so that one of their non pros could go show, but I knew that they would NOT put up with her stubborness..They would beat her to death for flopping her front end in the ground or refusing to go sometimes. How we got her to respect me still amazes me, but thats how my trainer is. He is EXCELLENT with tough horses. He doesn't beat on them, but works WITH them and figures out how to make them work. I showed my mare for over 11 years with NO injections at all! It wasn't until she turned 16, that I had her injected and that was only because with the vet that I worked for and todays technology that we discovered that she had OCD. I kind of panicked when he told me that and I said, "What do we do about that?????" He just looked at me and said, Well, if it ain't broke, don't fix it and besides, if you are marking 75 and 76s on her and she isn't sore, then I wouldn't worry about it. When she was 16, she started getting sore, I injected her once and she was still getting sore, so I quit showing her.
My new horse will be treated the same way. I have taken him to the Chiro to have him adjusted, but have yet to take him to the vet(Knocking on wood!)for any lameness stuff...and if he does get sore, I will draw the line and turn him out. I hope he lasts me quite a while...I just got back into cutting and LOVE it!!
I have a friend that had a mare for the NCHA futurity and her horse got sore a few weeks before the show...she ended up pulling her because she felt it wasn't worth killing her off for ONE show....there are many more to come...thats how MORE people should treat their horses in those aged events...

joycemocha said...

I find it interesting that my trainer, who is one of the big name AQHA judges, does not do futurities with his own babies. My mare was brought along slowly and has never really been shown--wasn't shown before I bought her, and I've only taken her to a show once. We've managed her carefully--and I still ended up having her hocks injected. But she's two months shy of being nine years old.

Royally bred as she is for reining and cutting, in other hands she'd have been shown to pieces by now--like her dam had been by another BNT. She's got the mind and the sting to pull it off--but her body I don't think could have held up to it--certainly not if she had to have her hocks injected at this point for fairly light work! In the wrong hands, too, she'd be a fried brain. Instead, she's my little pocket pet girl--and a nice little saddle mare.

wanttoknow said...

Mugwump -- your last very detailed comment -- that's exactly what I was asking to know. Unfortunately I will never forget your description of the beating of that horse -- it is sickening....
I can see why -- if you were involved or even on the fringe of the kind of thing you describe -- that you would be very sensitive about the subject. I am not saying this judgementally just understanding that it is so hard when you are the "apprentice" to figure out what is right -- your own inner voice or the opinion of all the experienced people around you who seem to think its all okay.
And of course I have done things in my life as well that I wish I never had and which haunt still me as well. (not horse related but same kind of regret)

Well the thing is I have horse heroes in the reining world -- horses and riders and performances that I am amazed by and aspire to. (You have even posted videos of some of these as a example of the beauty of wellbred and well trained reining horse). Stars old and new such as Wimpys Little Step and Smart Chic. I can't believe that these horse and many other champions ARE ALL victims of the type of treatment you described!
I am thinking (hoping) that the abuse you described is not the norm, not the requirement of getting to be a champion but the actions of a few who are greedy for money and fame but not quite good enough to make it without reducing themselves to this level - people who got to the top by being nasty.
Maybe this is just naive??? I sure hope not. Say it ain't so!

Anonymous said...

off topic but does anyone have an opinion about Quote "preventative" joint injections and/or preventative general intramuscular injections of Legend???
Is this a bad thing or a good supplement/ preventative thing like a vitamin/ minertal treatment for humans?
For a horse with no issues

Anonymous said...

Anon - I'm from a background of show jumping and eventing - where NOTHING was allowed in the horse except grass/feed. The idea of injecting horses during and immediately before competition just staggers me.

Then again, we though we were starting early with a 3 yo going over caveletti (about 1 ft high) maybe once a month, and only getting light riding and never on small circles.

Ok - I'm now really, really disgusted - i've found out what Legend is - so you're saying that people inject substitue joint fluid into the horses because they have screwed up what the horse originally had so bad that it's wrecked, but they won't retire it?
That sort of thing should be used to help horses that are no longer competing...

As for using it as preventative - I sure as hell hope that that needle going in is super clean, an infection will really mess the joint up.... then again, isn't that the point of the riding you're doing???

Sharon McMaster, BSc(H), MLT, EMT said...

I have been lurking for quite some time. I just wanted to tell you I've really enjoyed reading your blog. I've even decided to give it a try myself!

HorseOfCourse said...

I’ve been sleeping sweetly while you have been looking at worms.
What shall I say, Mugs?
There’s a time for winter trails, and there’s a time for worm cans.
I have wanted to ask you this for quite some time now.
Abuse is not pleasant.
You can look the other way, or you can put a spotlight on it, and try to make your voice heard to make people think. And eventually make a change.
The horses can for sure not make their voices heard.
Having a debate is not a bad thing is it? It makes people stop and think.
It can also provoke, and maybe make some enemies as well.
But it is for a right cause.
You are not soft.
In Germany the life expectancy of warmbloods has been reduced drastically.
The young horses get too much grain feed and too little turn out.
When they are 3 years old, they look gorgeous but have a rotten bone structure, due to too rapid growth and too little exercise.
When they are put under strain to perform in an early age (too quickly, money again), the body can’t take it.
What is it that someone said? “The tragedy is not the brutality of the evil, but the silence of the good people”
It is not easy to speak up when the people abusing are big names.
But it is even more necessary as they are setting the norm for what is accepted or not.
Young people see and learn. What kind of approach do we want them to learn when handling the horses?
Honour to you Janet. Not only for taking the personal consequences of this, but also to open the can of worms and sharing your experiences. Taking the debate on your blog where many people can read, and think.
It is more pleasant to speak about the easy things, but sometimes one has to take the difficult ones as well.

ezra_pandora said...

That's such a big reason I'm so iffy to ever want to show. I keep telling myself if I do ever get the chance, it won't be under ridiculous conditions and will be because I want to have fun, not torture my horse.

SkyBar Farm said...

Mugs I agree with your sentiments 100%. I have been ridiculed for not using the current trends and practices in the QH show ring. I want a solid, sound horse at the end of the day and at the end of it's natural life. Those thoughts have kept me from competing on a large scale. I have lost clients to bigger names who use the current practices, but I will not go back on my word to the horse which is to be fair to them in all ways.

WanttoKnow ~ the current show system is broken in a lot of ways. When money is involved in anything, shortcuts are created that almost never are good for the horse. The 4 beat lope is hideous, finally after enough complaining AQHA asked the judges to ask for an extension of the lope during the WP class. I had hope that this would help, it has not. I see riders extending their hand forward about an inch or so and the judges considered that extension and no horse actually did a true 3 beat lope in the ring.

The first Reining trainer I rode under was the nicest person you ever met. She was knowledgable and a great rider. when I saw the vet come in and just start injecting hocks one day I asked why all the horses under 6 were also getting injections, I was told it is necessary in this day and age. I was sick to my stomach, and quickly left never to come back. My mantra has always been build a better horse to be able to safely perform the job asked and to still be sound. Reining which is my love has turned into something I hardly recognize anymore.

Abuse does not have to be blatantly obvious to still be abuse. Look at any AQHA HUS horse, that is terribly heavy on the front and ridden on a loose rein and constantly being "picked" at. you will see the vacant "gone" look in their eyes. I have seen what goes into getting those horses to perform and while some might not call it abuse per se, just current training practices, I choose not to perscribe to the current methods.

My daughter has been showing for 5 years, she is 12 now. She has had brat ponies and brat horses that she has had to train herself with the guidance of me and a few good professional trainers and instructors who think along the same lines as me. My daughter has always been in the top 3 placings. Her current mare is a higky opinionated witch. We have owned her for a year and she still stuggles with getting her onto the bit. Depends on the day. I could have thrown a set of draw reins on, but I won't. I want my daughter to learn how to drive that mare onto the bit the right way. It can be done, and I do see small changes, but until more owners, trainers and judges quit rewarding and seeking out the shortcuts, it will be more of the same.

My daughter and I use the shows to compete against ourselves, not our other competitors. That is how we have stayed sane. We strive for our personal goals with our horses to do better this show than the last, wether it be cadence, control or just remebering the dang pattern. Believe me that is a victory for me when that happens.

Sorry to be so scatterbrained and wordy. Not enough coffee yet. :)

GoLightly said...

Okay, I've officially crawled back under my rock, never to return.
So nothing really has ever changed.

The Logging Chain story has convinced me.

No show world like that can possibly continue, without worse to come.

gah.

HorseOfCourse, you are so lucky, she answered you.
I think.

Show Horses, lucky? Not so much.

bye bye.

SkyBar Farm said...

Wanted to add now that I have coffee. The colt is a cutie. Let him grow up a bit more. My 2 yr old who is officially 3 on the 22nd was not put under saddle until last November. we put 45 days on her and were back to the grow up a little and leave her alone for a few more months. She has size, 15.2 at the hip, but she just needs to mature in the head more. I'm in no hurry.

autumnblaze said...

What's the harm in spending 6months to a year to let the colt grow up? You're probably adding at least 3x that or more in years healthy riding years to his life. Teach him to ground drive to build up his back if he needs to be busy. He's a handsome boy. Let him be a little horse until he's ready, physically and mentally to be a big working horse.

I helped treat a mare who while being round penned 'supposedly' slammed her head into the gate at the trainers while they worked her. They 'didn't notice' and round penned her another 15 minutes. How do you not notice? Why was the gate open/gaping for her to slam into it? Her face was caved in just below her left eye, deep into her nasal cavities. She was a royal bitch to the vet techs for meds (duh, we were approaching her face/mouth...) only certain ones of us who gained her trust first could approach her without getting a serious spin and 'I'll kick the shit out of you' defensive threat. She was a real sweetie once she let you in, actually liked her meds but a hot opinionated tempermental mare - who was terrified. I would put money on she was refusing to do something for the trainer who did that to her with something large and heavy. The owners were devistated. I'll never forget her face.

There were so many similar 'stories' that just didn't add up from horses coming in from big name trainers - even the vets made excuses for them and never questioned their super lame excusesbecause of who they were. Not sure if they didn't believe a big name would do such a thing etc. etc.

Anon - Sport medicine vets make KILLINGS off joint injections, Legend (IV and IA) etc. Ethical ones won't do it if there is no lameness or without a lameness exam. However many trainers just want them done ... and many just do it sans exam even because the trainers request it. Makes them money, and trainers leave them alone for a few months. Even many of the ones who vowed to 'do no harm' are money motivated. An older horse with mild joint issues getting injections or Legend to remain functional (lighter riding/much lighter performance) doesn't seem cruel. I've seen some that are almost different horses on it - after just 1 round. They still enjoy their work - just like someone with arthritis still rides with a some joint supplements and the occasional advil. However when they have significant damage requiring direct injections and/or serious supplements (IV) etc. and have them more than once maybe twice a year or before they're 7 y/o... that's just abuse. Don't get me started on the 'show shoes' for a lot of the breeds either...

kel said...

mugs... I have a bookend to your two year old, only mine is three. He is just being started under saddle this spring.

anon... I went to a vet seminar a couple of years ago and one of the products that was talked about was Adaquan. They were promoting it more for prevention than as a repair for damage already done. It is expensive that is why people don't want to use it as a preventative, why spend the money if you don't have a problem? Which is bullshit. It is an intramuscular shot that helps the horses body create more synovial (sp?) joint fluid. After the seminar my husband wanted to get the vet to inject his shoulders!

I have thought about using it on my paint horse. The loading doses are expensive, the maintenance doses aren't too bad. I love this horse (he is 10) and their is nothing wrong with his joints. He is in training for reining and we are now asking him to do all the things that are going to put that added pressure and unnatural use on / of his joints.

Every horse product out there has intended and recommended uses and lots of people will use them "off label" in an effort to get more. Shoot, the trainer at the barn where I board (not my trainer) is so quick to get out a needle and syringe full of ??? He isn't a vet, but his frig looks like he is.

Legend, Adaquan, etc are good products and there is a place for them in the industry. However I don't advocate thinking of them as a go to for treating blatant abuse.

Anonymous said...

Kel - my trainer is asking me to consider preventative legend/adequan muscular injections on a preventative basis -- similar to what you described was being discussed at the info session. My horse is a 3 year old direct descendant of a champion reiner - being trained slowly - not for futurities, but with hopes for derbies at age 4 and 5. The injections are not in the joint and the theory is that it super lubricates the joints to prevent damage from the inevitable extra stress due to the intense spins stops etc. that will be required in high level maneouvers.
Well I am undecided as to whether this is a good idea. On one hand it seems maybe it would be an expensive but good thing to do to avoid bad joints, on the other maybe not so good to fool with nature? Anyone have any experience with such injections on sound young high potential athletic horses?

autumnblaze said...

kel - You're exactly right. Those are great products but pricey. However, when they're on Legend, and getting periodic joint injections just to maintain at all- that's abusive. You can tell the horses just hurt. Saw a lot of lesson packers living that hell.

On the trainers meds closets, some of the things some trainers get their hands on drug-wise baffles me! I saw some that had more and better stocked closets/rooms than the vet I was working for!

anon- Those are excellent products and it would help protect his joints (within reason, of course).
As Kel mentioned the loading doses deter most people cost-wise, after that it's not too bad (~$80 or so for the meds 1 inject a month I think). It's just getting the same or similar building blocks for protective joint fluid production as an oral supplement into them only more direct. If you're really uncomforatable with it, oral supplement can be a good option for joint health preventatives in a young, clean horse. However,the ones that actually work can be few and far between - cost isn't always indicative of how well they perform. Do your homework (ask your vet!!!) on the active ingredients. Platinum Performance products are EXCELLENT - not cheap but very good and not just for joint health.

showgirl said...

mugwump said "He is foundation bred, but also out of two AQHA, NRCHA champions. He has earned his place in the world."
Yes I have one of these too. But after hearing your story I am feeling a moral dilema. We covet, feel proud about and even brag about these royally bred horses in every discipline, and we know that they have a high liklihood of being really talented like their parents were. We expect that becuase of their breeding they may be very likely able to compete and succeed at the highest levels.
My quandry: Since these well know names are essentially abused to get where they did, aren't we contributing to the abuse by wanting and buying their expensive offspring?
And yet what are the alternatives, how else can you do it? One step is to increase the typical age at futurities, but surely the mean training methods are not just reserved for the very young.
Thoughts?

mugwump said...

Showgirl- You've just explained why I'm a mugwump.
I still like to compete. I still have a burning desire to smack around some of the big boys in the show pen by winning.
I am extremely aware that the horses I have a taste for have been bred by breeding many to find a few and dumping the rejects for slaughter.
The training levels I achieved came mostly from the trainers who I have watched do things to horses I can't accept.I wouldn't know how to get the performance out of my horses that I do without them.
I learned about the things I hate by watching them and staying silent for years....
I am on both sides of the fence in many, many ways.

kel said...

anon... Mother nature never intended our horses to repeatedly slide stop 20+ feet or whirl around 4 and 5 rotations over and over again. She may need a little help on this one. :) Just my opinion.


autumn...I am not as familiar with Legend. At the seminar they compared the two but I don't remember what the major differences were. Does Legend have to go directly into the joint?

autumnblaze said...

kel - There are two types of Legend - IV and IA. IV = intravenous (in vein); IA = Intra-articular (in joint).

There are technially two types, but sometimes vets will inject the IV type IA and visa versa. Some speculate if there is a difference or if it's just the bottle size that differs. The most popular is in the joint.

I think I meant to say Adequan a fews when I was saying Legend too. Both however, are good products when used reasonably - especially for a horse doing the maneuvers mother nature didn't exactly intend repeatedly!

autumnblaze said...

Jeez. * say Adequan a fews= a few times...

SolitaireMare said...

In my many years of showing in Dressage, Hunters and Hunt Seat Eq. I saw the good and the bad. There were trainers who let their students compete on obviously unsound horses. Most of the time it was the less experienced or economy trainers but many times you'd see a kid with a BNT riding some old campaigner who was obviously fixed up with something to pack the kid around "one more time" and take the big ribbons.

How many horses have I seen lunged and lunged to wear them out for a student to ride. (When in reality all you do is set up a vicious cycle where the horse gets fitter from the increased work and therefore harder for that student to ride). I've seen spur scars, on dressage horses, too. I hate draw reins. I admit to using them years ago but one day I decided they served no purpose and gave them away. I have never felt a need for them since. I also dislike the TB racing industry for many of it's practices and for using up and throwing away young horses like trash.

I never wanted to be like that, that "win at any cost" frame of mind. I like to show and compete but I would never and have never pushed an animal past the point of its training or fitness. For what? A piece of ribbon? I had my share of Championship days but never at the expense of my animal's well being or my own ethics. I also discovered as my life has moved in other directions and I haven't competed in a few years, that all the ribbons and trophies you ride for are "of the moment". There's a whole new crop of people showing out there now who didn't ride with me then and don't know me now. I know what I can do, I don't need to keep winning to prove it to myself or anyone.

Anonymous said...

thanks Autumnblaze and Kel for the info on muscular injections for joint injury prevention. (legend etc). appreciated hearing your thoughts!

Justaplainsam said...

" Anonymous said...
Anon - I'm from a background of show jumping and eventing - where NOTHING was allowed in the horse except grass/feed. The idea of injecting horses during and immediately before competition just staggers me."

Your kidding right?? I was a groom for a top showjumper and I traveled with a tack trunk FILLED with drugs/illegal rubs ect.

You know the plastic that you can place over carpet? And how it has sharp peices of plastic stickin up like tacks out of the back? All of our poles were wraped in it tack side out. We would put 'rubs' on that made the horses feet super sensitive. We had weighted boots to make sure they lifed there legs.

They test at AQHA as much as they do at the AAA's.

Yeah we didnt use bute on a regular basis but we knew the withdrawal times on everything.... We regulary sent horses home to 'have a break' who never came sound again.

Every world has the story's that they dont want out.

Anyways Mugwump, you give us a chance to get this out. Its always just under the surface at any horse event. I'd stay off your guy too. The 'boss' already has his 8 two year olds started already, working 6 days a week... mine is outside and hasnt had a saddle on yet.

quietann said...

I realized the other day that my horse is a pet. A pet is kept for life, it's valued whether it's "useless" or not, it isn't used up and thrown away. If I didn't see her as a pet, I would have sold her as soon as I realized she was going to be tough for me. Instead, I'm spending the money on proper training for both of us, and I appreciate this horse now beyond all reason, for everything I am learning from her. (At the same time -- we are not such a mismatch that training wouldn't really help.)

That said, I think a lot of people use Legend/Adequan/polyglycan precisely because they are keeping these horses "forever" and well, even if they are pets, people want to be able to ride them as long as possible, and keep them comfortable while doing so. That goes for preventive maintenance, too; if you realize you're using your horse *hard* you'll want to keep it from breaking down.

(And I realize of course that not everyone uses these things out of kindness to the horse! People may use them precisely so they can win in the showring, and/or be able to sell the horse on for a lot of money.)

My mare is 11 and is ever so slightly stiff in the left hind hock, and has arthritic changes in her right hock. She was ridden by someone very heavy before I got her, and that may have caused her problems. There's no indication that it hurts when she's ridden, but I put her maintenance on polyglycan in the same category as feeding her right. I also don't jump her, because I want those hocks to work well as long as possible. She's a horse who needs a job, so this is what I do to make sure she *can* have a job.

mugwump said...

I have no problem with Adequan or Legend. They are effective and helpful drugs.
I have a problem with horses being trained in a manner which ends up with them needing them by the time they are four years old.

horsesandturbos said...

Another one of those appropriate topics.

My step-horse is one of those used-up show horses. His lower legs have more lumps and bumps and weird thicknesses than a bracelet. Until this year, he lived on hock injections and who knows what.

Lucky the economy has not affected his owner who is great about his board. But I worry that I will be forced at some point to decide to keep him, or let him go back to the world he was from (yes, there are places that will take him and use him up as a lesson horse). I can't afford another horse, but my heart can't let him go back to that, either.

He came to me last fall with dead-eyes. Last night, for the first time, he played with me while I was grooming him.

He is not what I would have chosen for a second horse, but sometimes you just get what you need. Or they get what they need.

After hearing all this (and actually seeing it next door done by Bling Bling), I hope that I don't have to make that decision any time soon.

Sigh.

Nosnikta said...

sI will vouch for Brenda... I know her horses and when you can take a speed horse and a reining horse and use them as lesson horses for novice kids, you are doing something right.

My daughter shows at a local level and she does pretty well. Some folks think we should move on to the breed level and (shrug).. I'm not sure I really want to push that.

For one thing... my gawd, they are hugely expensive and for another thing, I really don't care if my best horse tips his/her nose out slightly beyond the vertical level. He does what I ask of him collected, sweet, and... HAPPILY.

I don't care if my horse has a three-beat canter because that's NATURAL! I despise the four-beat lopes (yes, I know I used lope and canter in the same paragraph but my daughter rides both english and western). I can't freaking sit one of those four-beat lopes anyway. That's not a pleasureful ride in my book. And the trope?????? omg... who the hell thought that up? Are we trotting or loping??????? Sorry, but that's not my idea of a true gait.

My point is the fact that the judges these days are looking for things that aren't natural for a horse and those are the horses who are placing. If that is "pleasure" and "horsemanship" then count me out. We'll leave the show ring and go find something fun that both we and our horses will enjoy doing.

So I am more content to have my daughter ride well, understand her horses, learn with them and from them, rather than to force issues on to them that will lead them to a dead eye and a comatose brain.

Will we ever be at a world-class show? doubtful. Why? well it's not because my daughter may not be capable, but it's because I won't force my horses to be so programmed that they don't have the freedom to be an individual who tosses you a fun challenge once in a while.

Showing is fun... when it's fun... but when it comes to breaking down your horse just for a ribbon, that's not worth it to me.

Jami Davenport said...

I'm joining this discussion late. So I may be bringing up a topic that's already listed in all these comments.

I took up dressage 30 years ago when I was very young and when it wasn't popular in this country. The more popular it got, the more money it involved, and the more I saw abusive situations with the horses. Way back when we were all slogging around the dressage ring with our backyard horses, having a helleva good time, I didn't see so many broken-down horses or questionable situations. Winners are rewarded, and some people will always choose a shortcut to win.

jennybean said...

I show Morgan horses and hope to become a world champion ONE DAY - I'm sure there are trainers out there who resort to abusive methods to create the "ultimate show horse", but I have never had any experiences with that in the Western Pleasure or Hunt seat divisions. I know the Stock horse and Arabian circuit is much larger - but regardless, I would never feel that I had to abuse my horse in order to win big with Morgans.

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